Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton
Brody: It doesn’t make any sense…they pay a guy like you to watch sharks?
Hooper: Well, uh, it doesn’t make much sense for a guy who hates the water to live on an island either.
Brody: It’s only an island if you look at it from the water.
Hooper: That makes a lotta sense…
A large, killer shark terrorizes an island community that depends on summer beach-going tourists to fuel its economy.
Let’s face it, killer creature movies have been around for a long time. There were many before Jaws and even more since then, but I dare say that Jaws did it better than all the rest. I know, what a bold thing to say, right? This is a classic that appears on many all time great lists.
So what makes this killer monster movie so much better than the rest? Well, not only does Senor Spielbergo’s clever direction result in scaring the bejeezums out of the audience, but we’re also treated to 3 great characters in Brody, Hooper, and Quint. Sheriff Martin Brody, the family man who, despite being afraid of water, relocated from New York to Amity Island because he wanted to live in a place where he could actually make a difference. Matt Hooper, the young, rich marine biologist called in to determine if there was, in fact, a shark feeding in the area, and if so, what kind. Then Captain Quint, the WWII veteran who has been seeking revenge on sharks ever since he witnessed scores of his shipmates get eaten alive by sharks after the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. These guys are great together and really drive the second half of the movie.
What drives the first half of the movie, though, is the ominous tension that builds as we wonder who’s going to get gobbled up next. I mean, after a young boy, Alex, becomes the shark’s second victim, pretty much anybody is fair game.
Of course, I couldn’t talk about Jaws without mentioning the scene that gave me nightmares as a youngster.
Yeah, that one. Spielberg used to be so good, what happened? He’s still alright, but not Jaws good.
Speaking of Spielberg, we do get a few of those classic Spielberg continuity errors. I sometimes picture him delivering the same line that Johnny Depp does as Ed Wood, “Nobody will ever notice that. Filmmaking is not about the tiny details. It’s about the big picture.” I can overlook barrels appearing and disappearing, a shoe on the foot of a leg floating to the seabed right after we saw the former owner with bare feet, and sudden changes in daylight, but I still puzzle over one scene in particular. When they find the remains of the first victim on the beach, it cuts to a shot of her arm covered in crabs, but then one crab suddenly drops in from the top of the frame and lands on her arm. Clearly the crab wrangler was still tossing them into the scene at that point. How is that never noticed and edited out? Not a big deal, but it has always bugged me.
Despite all of that, the good stuff wins out…big time. Scene after scene works to either hit the audience with a scare, make them laugh, or build the characters so we care that much more about them at the end. In fact, there’s only one scene I can think of that doesn’t really work, and that’s the one with the two guys on the dock with the turkey. Not only does it seem superfluous, but it also isn’t staged all that well. It would’ve been better if at least one of them became shark food.
I’m guessing most people have seen this movie, but I’ll close by saying that if you haven’t, and even if you don’t normally enjoy killer (fill in the blank) movies, give this one a shot, even if it’s just to enjoy the characters. It perfected a formula that has been copied, usually with much less success, over and over since its release. It is well worth a watch.
Oh, but don’t bother with any of the sequels. Jaws 2 is decent, but the other two are just garbage. You might get a good laugh out of Jaws 4 though.
Always get a bigger boat…
10 – .2 for those various continuity errors – .2 for that one scene that I’ve just never liked = 9.6